Postpone Trash Fee, Ecker Asks

Executive To Appoint Panel To Exploregarbage Problem

March 25, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

County Executive Charles I. Ecker wants the County Council to hold up his proposed $70 trash fee while he looks at other options for solving the county's growing garbage problem.

Ecker said Monday he will appoint a trash commission to help him explore those options and will invite the council to nominate some of the members.

Initially, Ecker tried to solve the problem on his own. But his plan to charge a $70 fee for trash collection and disposal while reducing the property tax rate 7 cents was condemned at a public hearing last week.

That reaction -- 21 people spoke against the plan, and no one endorsed it -- came despite a well-orchestrated press conference March 10 at which Ecker sought to build support for his proposal.

Rather than scuttle the idea altogether, Ecker wants the County Council to table his proposal and join him in appointing members to the trash commission.

Council members at Monday's work session were unaware of Ecker's intention to seek their help in appointing a trash commission, because he had not yet written them about it.

"I wantedto give them the opportunity to do what they wanted to do" with the bill first, he said."

At issue is how the county will deal with the skyrocketing costs of collecting and disposing of trash. The annualexpense is expected to more than triple in eight years from the current $5.6 million to $17.3 million in the year 2000.

Those are justthe operating costs. Capital projects will cost tens of millions of dollars more, public works officials say. To cope with capital costs,the administration wants to establish a special fund based on user fees.

The fees were projected to grow from $70 per household this year to $216 by the year 2000. The problem with a per-household fee isthat there is no incentive for recycling, Council Chairman Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, told public works officials Monday night. A fee per bag is preferable, he said.

Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, said he also prefers a fee based on the amount of trash a person accumulates.

"Iwant to see something done that makes people responsible for what they do," Feaga said.

Public Works Director James M. Irvin told the council the amount of trash per capita is increasing at a rate of 3 percent per year. Meanwhile, curbside recycling service will grow fromthe 28,160 households served now to 57,200 households by 1994, further adding to the cost of trash collection, Irvin said.

"It may be that we have to charge a fee at some point, but let's look at all theoptions first," said C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd.

Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, and Darrel Drown, R-2nd, said they prefer trash taxes to fees. Fees are not deductible on federal income tax forms.

"We need to handle this in a more comprehensive manner," Drown said. "We need to get the executive and us together." He and Feaga urged the council to table the Ecker proposal.

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